Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Boys

Here is a picture of my boys, the cats that share our house with my husband and I.

As you can see, they are brothers.  In fact, in the dark sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.  Wally is in the front, and he is pretty much my cat.  Max is behind and he has bonded with my husband.  Max is also the cat who has had degenerative kidney disease (since the age of 3) and we have been giving him subq fluids to combat that condition for 6 years - every other day - and will continue to do so for the rest of his life.  It is what keeps him alive.  

What is remarkable about this picture is the following:

  • They are both sitting on the couch with me.  They seldom do that - mostly because our house is usually occupied with 1 to 3 dogs.  When the guest dogs are in residence, our cat-boys pretty much stick to the upstairs.  They do make occasional appearances on the first floor, but never so relaxed.
  • They are sitting side-by-side - almost touching.  When we got this pair, we were looking for a bonded pair.  Our last set of cats had decided to dislike each other and it was an armed camp for several years.  Once burned, we did not want to live like that again.  We wanted the next set of cats to already get along.  We figured brothers who were already friends would work.  And it does, usually.  They play together, they don't fight with each other, but they don't sleep together or groom each other as truly bonded animals sometimes do.  No matter, sometime they "accidentally" find themselves sitting together ... making it worth the picture!!
I love these two gentle souls.  They are pretty adaptable having lived around dogs all their lives.  

It is nice spending time with them alone - without the competition of the 3 grand dogs who think they own the place!!  It is because of my desire to honor their rights to our bed and our bedroom, that when the dogs come to visit, I do not sleep in my bed.  I sleep on the pull out couch or in the guest room in the basement with the canines.   

Sometimes I miss my bed, but for these sweet feline faces, I am happy to sleep elsewhere so they can rest comfortably on the second floor when the canine invasion is raging!! 

After all, these boys are mine and this is their home, and the grand dogs are visitors and are borrowed! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Insanity is ...

doing the same thing over and over again
 and expecting different results."
  Albert Einstein

Oh, Albert, how true this statement is.

I do some of my best thinking on my walks.  I wonder if Mr. Einstein was a walker.

It occurred to me today as I walked that I am moving away from previous insanities.  That is not to say that my old habits were wrong or defective in some way.  No, it just means that methods I used previously never seemed to endure or make lasting improvements for me.  And yet I always fell back on using them when I was "starting over" in my quest to improve my health.  

It was a kind of insanity.

For example: In the past, I diligently recorded exercise statistics:  activities, frequency, repetitions, durations, etc.  It fit my nature to do this, and I assumed it kept me engaged in exercise.  Funny, but the "engaged" part never seemed to last as long as I wanted. 

Today while walking I reflected that I felt pretty good.  The distance, time and speed didn't really matter to me.  What counted was the feedback I was getting from my body that said:  "enjoying the walk, keep doing this till you are ready to stop, and then repeat again soon."  Right then I decided to stop record keeping on my calendar (my history of what I had done) and consider the activity as "money in the bank" for the future - improving my freedom of movement for longer into my aging with every step I took.  

The change of focus was the difference between looking behind at the past and seeing ahead into the future.

I realized the same was true for my stretching/yoga moves.  My body had some stiffness from yesterday's practice that I knew would be relieved by more practice.  In fact, I was eager to get those tiny improvements in flexibility later today ... "banking" those improvements so that my future flexibility would keep me moving and nibble. 

So I am leaving behind an insanity and hopefully finding a lifestyle.  

Only time will tell.

The only objective indicator I am using now is the step count on my FitBit.  The step count proves I am moving enough each day to avoid some of the bad things in life.  My goal is still 10,000 steps average per day.  Sometimes I get 10,000 steps through my walks, and sometimes I reach the goal through activities in the house.  No matter how I get them, it is movement!  And movement is one of those "magic pills of health" that everyone looks for but many refuse to recognize.  The FitBit and me are Buds!! 

Hope you approve, Mr. Einstein.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur's Inspirational Transformation!

If you haven't seen this video, you must.

  I put this story on my blog because I want this example for me
 - when I forget that life is what you make it 
- when I forget that physical limitations can be slowed and sometimes reversed
- when I forget to believe in myself ...

Never Ever Give Up
Thanks, Arthur.
I need your example.
How about you?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reducing Life Static

There are many blogs on minimalism and simplification.  It is a real movement for sure.  Broadly speaking, the movement to reduce the clutter of life in all its iterations is a desire probably born from our consumer culture where the "cult of big, better, more" is still fully in charge.

My own journey to reduce what I call "life static" has been ongoing for years and feels like it is finally picking up steam today.  It is time for some observations on my current efforts to calm my world down - especially when a big responsibility and focus of life has recently disappeared.

It started quietly when I needed to thin out the inherited stuff from the death of a grandmother-in-law and a mother-in-law during the mid 1990s.  Next came the "newly-adult-children-returning-home chapter," so space was made for them.  In mid 2000s my mom moved in with her stuff.  Although I decluttered and decluttered and decluttered over the last 20 years, the stuff continued to increase like rabbits.  I never got ahead.  I just stayed even.  Now the adult children are fully independent, all older adults have passed away, and my decluttering efforts seem to be making a difference.

It continues to astound me, however, at the volume of stuff that has passed through my hands in the last 20 years.  I don't remember one single thing that left this house.  Not one single thing. That understanding underlines emphatically just how little we really need to be happy.  Decluttering creates a feeling of lightness, almost like a drug high.

It is trite but true - less is more.

While decluttering is a big part of my efforts, it is but one small part of my life static picture.

Time is precious - more precious to me now than when I was 30.  It is human nature to think there is plenty of time left to do what you want, but no one has a promise of more time than the current moment.  I used to think I would return to work in a fun part time job when mom was gone - now she is gone - no job for me.  No, no, no!  (see a previous post on The Power of No.)  I suspect all retired folks worry about money and if it will last. I am no different. But I would rather adopt a frugal life style than fill my free hours with a job to gain a pay check.  Time is precious.  Time is the goal ... not money.

Travel was always on my radar - especially after retirement.  But now my husband is not comfortable with his external environment.  His vision is very very compromised now - what little he has.  And I find I don't miss travel.  I love my home and my life.  I don't need to seek out ways to escape from it like I did when I worked.  It is an interesting evolution I would never have predicted.

I dream of less living space.  I love my townhouse.  All 2,000 feet of it has served me well in raising a family, supporting elderly relatives and giving children a safety net while they established themselves in the world.  But my current dream is less house.  And less will definitely be more if this dream is ever achieved.  More on that topic another time.

Busyness is way reduced.  My "to do" lists still get made, but some days they are never looked at.  Thank goodness there is always tomorrow (hopefully there is tomorrow, but if not, will the "to-dos" really matter all that much to me?)  And thank goodness for "to do" lists, because once something is on the list I know that it will eventually get done (if there is a tomorrow - but if not - oh well.)

Time to think and dream have filled the vacuum left by my mom's death.  Wow, what a concept - time to think.  That still blows my mind.

My "20 years and 20 goals blog theme" born years ago is now down to a "20 years and 2 goals blog theme":  (1) keep fit and healthy, and (2) enjoy living every minute. How's that for symplifying!  Even if my mind starts to fail me like mom's did, I should be able to keep track of 2 goals!!

So that is the wrap up for Reducing Life Static.

Someday I might even get good enough at this simplifying thingy
 to get this whole post down to one sentence!!! 

(ok, maybe not.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Inquiring Minds: "Capturing" Blog Posts

In returning to blogging and visiting blogs this month I decided to make a change in how I am notified of new blog posts from the blogs I follow.

In the past, I used a "blog catcher" ... most recently Bloglovin'.  Basically I tell Bloglovin' which blogs I follow.  Bloglovin' captures recent blog posts from my list for me.  The blog posts are held on their web site until I am ready to read them.  Once read, the blog posts are automatically removed from my "To Be Read List."  Bloglovin' sends me one daily email reminding me that I have blog posts ready for review.

I am sure most blog catcher sites work in a similar fashion.  I have used that method for a long time.

Now the problem for me is  ... I seem to get behind on my reading.  When I open up the blog catcher I can have 100 open blog posts waiting for review.  It is can be discouraging.  Sometimes I just mark everything as "read" even though I didn't read it.  t know the problem rests partly in my tendency to ignore the daily Bloglovin' reminder ... but when I get an individual blog post directly dropped into my gmail inbox, I don't ignore it.

So I am moving over to the "send me an email" subscription method for each blog entry posted.  Most blogs offer you the option to subscribe through email.  Initially I was worried that my gmail inbox would be flooded ... but that hasn't happened yet.  Blog posts trickle in daily and are entirely manageable.  And I find I can read a current blog posting far more promptly than before ... at least so far.

what methods have you used ... 
and what method are you currently using?  
Is there another option out there I didn't mention?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Renew Our Edges

I need to spend more time reading Mark Twain's words.
Every quote I read rings bells in my brain.

An amazing individual.

This one seems particularly timely at my point in life.

Mark Twain in New Hampshire, 1905
The New York Times Photo Archives
"In America, we hurry--which is well; but when the day's work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man's prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it lie fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in--the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains and its heated machinery allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!" - The Innocents Abroad

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Power of NO!

During my years as a working person I had one boss (a lovely and caring individual) who coined this statement with her employees.

"The answer is yes.  Now what is the question?"

At the time (12 years ago) I thought it was a catchy statement.  It seemed so positive, so open, so engaging.  And it was something I always remembered it.  I thought it was something to immolate in my own life.  It matched my perception of who I was ... a perky, happy, open and accommodating person.

Over the years since that job, I learned that the answer "yes" to every question was not necessarily helpful, or truthful or healthy.  I began to wonder if she learned that statement in a management course or book on how to manage teams.  I became more skeptical and resistant to stock statements and catch phrases.  I learned through some difficult life experiences that "yes" is not always the best answer.

And now as a grouchy older woman I find "no" to be the best answer in many situations.  My path from a "yes" person to a "no" person is not so dismal as you might think.

Here are the situations where "no" really is the best answer.
  • No, I don't want my home to be filled with too much stuff.  I don't want to struggle finding things that I know I have but can't find.  I don't want to buy a 6th hammer because I can't find the other 5. (sadly not an exageration)
  • No, I don't want to end my life in a wheel chair or bed bound.  I don't want my family to struggle with managing my end of life dibilitation.  I don't want to linger in a marathon of stuggle and pain.  
  • No, I don't want my personal time filled with activities and obligations that I don't enjoy or value.  I don't want to say "yes" to requests because it is more socially acceptable to do so.  I don't want my personal time (that is slowly ticking away) filled with others expectations.
But really, as the quirkiness of language can sometime show, the "no" statements can be restructured into "yes" statements.
  • Yes, I do want to get rid of that 6 bags of stuff I decluttered.  I do want to minimize my belongings so that I can find and use them.  I do want to value the things I love without having them buried in stuff I don't.
  • Yes, I do want to keep active, flexible and engaged in life - so I do want to exercise and stretch because I want to keep control of my own life and not abandon that responsibility to my children. 
  • Yes, I do want fill my hours with fun, thoughtfulness and happiness, and my perception of what that is exactly is my decision to make - not someone else's.
For me "no" is a more empowering word.  I learned the value of "no" in saying "yes" to caregiving. Strange as it seems, I said "yes" to a huge responsibility, but "no" was where I learned how to stand up for myself and for my mom.  "No" to doctors, nurses, social workers, other family members, and religious professionals when I didn't accept their point of view ... "no" to administrative types and billing folks .... even "no" to my mom when her deteriorating brain failed to serve her well.  It was in those last years I learned that "no" was more powerful than "yes."  In fact, I was told several times near the end of mom's life, "You never gave up on your mother."   True.  It was an observation made because I said "no" far more than I said "yes."  

I really wish I had been wise enough to 12 years ago to challenged that little management "yes" statement ... maybe with some carefully worded questions that wouldn't get me fired like ...
  • Can I have a 25% increase in pay?
  • Can I have a corner office?
  • Can I have a 3 hour work day without a cut in pay?
I bet I could have massaged a "no" from my boss's lips.

So - are you more of a "yes" person or a "no" person?  

And don't let my post sway you from your opinion.  
The world is filled with "yes" people.  
And with enough challenge in life they just might graduate to "no" people.  

Really, all the interesting people in life are "no" people.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not Torture!


Yesterday's walk outside was not torture.

Yes, I know, I guess I have sunk pretty low when reaching the threshold of "not torture" is great news.

So here is why I have achieved the "not torture" status!

I can now walk and breathe at the same time without panting and drawing attention to my plight.
I can walk up a slope without slowing my speed to much - faster than a turtle I bet. 
I can now pass a bench without seriously considering a sit down to black out for a bit.
I can now enter the house without immediately seeking the couch.
I can now complete a walk without hip pain.
I can now enjoy about 90% of the walk without wishing for death!

Let's hear a rousing cheer!!

(Louder, please.)

I also returned to Yoga at the Senior Center in February.  That was a humbling experience!  No, "humbling" is the wrong word.  It was embarrassing.  My strength, flexibility and balance are pathetic!!  No, "pathetic" is the wrong word.  It was ... hmm ... can't use those words here.  So lets leave it at pathetic ... pathetically embarrassing.  Thank God I can be at the back of the room. 

I leave those classes thinking, "You are only a few years away from becoming a totally inflexible pretzel."  But my personality is such that I won't accept that fate.  Almost every evening I do stretches from some DVDs I have.  This slow progress has also reached the level of "not torture."  

So improvements all around!  
I am psyched!!!  

Onward to the next status - Improved and Uninjured!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fresh Air

I try to not get too excited.  Not too much anticipation.  No expectations, for sure.  But ...

It is the beginning of March
 and the sun is out
 and it is WARM!  

Ok, not entirely warm.  Mostly in the high 40s and low 50s, but really folks, for us that temperature is now blessedly warm.  I see people out in shorts and sweaters and I think ... spring has got to be here soon!

It has been a difficult winter for me.  I feel like I have been in hibernation through most of it.  Maybe it was a normal reaction ... a time to just be and to heal and to assess.  Maybe it was a kind of grieving time for what I lost.  The loss is larger than just the death of my mother, but that is a topic for another time.  But I can't help wondering ... would I have hibernated like this if her death happened in summer?  Was her death the straw that finally broke the camel's back - so to speak?  Was my reaction timed more to the seasons than by life events?  Questions that I have pondered in my quiet times.  Answers that don't really need to be discovered.

I have always loved winter, but this winter has been so very cold and dark and snowy.  There is a ton of salt all over our environment to combat the ice - glad for the chemical melting, I guess, but the salt that is left behind clouds everything with a gray with film.

Yes, this winter was one to forget.

Official spring is just weeks away.  And I for one cannot wait.  Our whole world needs a good bath of spring rain to wash away winter.  We need the warmth to wake up the plants and melt away the snow FINALLY.  I greatly desire to pack away my shovels and boots.  I need to be able to step outside and take deep breaths of fresh air without risking frozen lungs.

Yes, I am ready ready ready for spring.

This spring holds many promises of fun things.  Two cousins weekends are planned: one in Pennsylvania soon and one at my house in May for The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival - "high holy days" for us fiber obsessed folks.  Time with cousins always pumps up my joy of living.

My house is undergoing a reorganization and decluttering - a sure sign that I am waking out of slumber.  After 2 days of house focused activity, I feel lighter already!! I can't wait to finally open the windows and fill my lighter space with fresh air.

This spring I celebrate 68 years on this earth.  Each birthday is a gratitude-inducing event now-a-days.  Many people don't make it this far in life.  I have seen the road ahead of me through my mother's own aging. It was an up close and personal journey.  Today, however, I am healthy and blessed in so many ways.  My birthdays always remind me of that fact. My new motto is to keep focused on today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  A time to rejoice for sure.

AND I can finally get outside and walk and walk and walk.  My FitBit friends ... look out.  I am going to pass you in the Leaderboard!  No need to fear icy patches, snow filled sidewalks and frost bitten noses.  Time to get these nearly 68 year old bones moving - time to stretch out these muscles and make the focus about me! (Me in the lead on the FitBit Leaderboard, of course.)  :-)

Yes, this spring holds many wonderful promises.

So everyone, now it is time for a deep breath of fresh air!!

So what are your spring plans like?

PS - if you are a FitBit user and want to be Friends at the online website ... just send me an email.  I would love to keep everyone moving along with me.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Slaying dragons

I know I took another blog break.  Shorter this time.  Not planned.  Not intended.  But still a quiet time in my blogging life.

But a small evolution seems to be happening.  Not yet sure yet where it is heading.  But interesting to watch all the same.

I have always been driven by structure and goals and lists and to-dos.  Always ... my whole life.  I don't remember anything different.  Now all that seems so unimportant.

I spend a lot of time thinking.  I may start out reading or playing a video game or knitting or weaving, but I find myself unexpectedly looking out the window ... thinking.  I look down to what is in my hands and see that I did one row of knitting 30 minutes ago and then stopped.  The day comes to an end and nothing observable has been accomplished.  The to-do list has the same items on it as it did 3 days ago.  Wow, that is so not me!

Oh, meals get made and doctor appointments are attended and time with friends happens ... and there are days of continuous activity where house cleaning and decluttering gets done - like today.  But mostly ... if my butt hits the couch, major parts of my day seem to drift out of focus with little to show for it ... except for thinking.

It is like I sit in someone else's body - and the "real me" is off slaying dragons somewhere.

I can't help but wonder if the real me is changing.

The real me, who kept putting one foot in front of the other while juggling several balls in the air and swinging a figurative sword at anyone who got in her way ... and chewing gum at the same time ... for 8 years of caregiving, that "real me" feels like a stranger.

I am beginning to think that slaying dragons is for other folks now.

I think ...

... I think I like the new me.